Outdoor early childhood playspaces + Permaculture Principle 11

Edges in a children’s centre rural NSW, Australia – Photos: Llewellyn Wishart

Early childhood practitioners, children and families ever thought about that slightly wild, weedy corner or edge of your kindergarten or childcare centre outdoor space? Do you want to “tidy it up” at the next working bee coz it’s messy, unsightly or potentially non-compliant? Well, perhaps think again…

  • If we were to apply Permaculture Principle 11. Use edges and value the marginal  we might find the weedy edge along the kindergarten fence has daisies popping up in Spring for children to forage and make daisy chains with. A wonderful aesthetic experience supporting fine motor skill development.
  • Or that neglected patch of dirt in a far flung corner of the childcare centre yard could be filled with so-called “kid-proof plants” . Hardy herbs, wild flowers or tough indigenous grasses could create a small patch of wild for children to play or retreat to.
  • Further opportunities could be had for children to create small hiding places, paths and nooks in those edges between built elements and marginal zones (DECD-DPTI 2015).
  • In our observational research we sometimes noticed outdoor spaces with “dead zones” where children wouldn’t play. In some cases these zones were set-up by early childhood educators with one specific idea of what children would do in them. If we embrace valuing the marginal then these dead zones could be looked at again by rethinking their functionality. Children may have very different ideas about what could happen in these spaces.
  • In another of our studies (Morrissey, Scott & Wishart, 2015) an “edge” was used in a way that was unexpected. Garden edging or borders became walkways for young children to transit the space and practice balancing. All the while a purpose-built traditional balance beam was left largely unused.

The Kindergardener

More ideas and resources

Be Reggio-Inspired: Outdoor Environments


LITTLE GREEN STEPS – Sustainability Education for Childcare Centres


Victorian Indigenous Nurseries Co-operative

Find out about my research


Children’s physical activity & movement in outdoor landscapes – What matters to early childhood educators?

Professional learning for early childhood outdoor pedagogy


Department for Education and Child Development & Department of Planning Transport & Infrastructure, 2015, Madge Sexton Kindergarten Outdoor Learning Areas Concept Design Report. DECD & DPTI, Government of South Australia.

Anne-Marie Morrissey, Caroline Scott & Llewellyn Wishart 2015, ‘Infant and Toddler Responses to a Redesign of Their Childcare Outdoor Play Space’, Children, Youth and Environments, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 29-56. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7721/chilyoutenvi.25.1.0029

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